Home > Homecoming (Vampire Academy #6.5)(3)

Homecoming (Vampire Academy #6.5)(3)
Author: Richelle Mead

The Belikovs and I stayed up late, answering their many questions. Even before he'd been forcibly turned into a Strigoi, Dimitri had been away from home for a while. He kept trying to find out what his family had been up to these last few years, but they brushed him off. They didn't consider their own experiences important. He was their miracle. And they couldn't get enough of him.

I knew the feeling.

When Paul and his sister were both fast asleep on the floor, we finally realized it was time for the rest of us to go to bed too. Tomorrow was a big day. I'd teased Dimitri that his family would have to outdo the memorial party they'd thrown him before, and it turned out I was right.

"Everyone wants to see you," Olena explained as she showed us to our bedroom. I knew "everyone" meant Baia's dhampir community. "As incredible as it is for us, it's even more unbelievable for them. So ... we just told them to stop by tomorrow. All of them."

I cast a glance at Dimitri, curious as to how he'd respond. He wasn't the type who really reveled in being the center of attention-I could only guess how he felt when it involved the most terrible, traumatizing events of his life. For a second, his face wore that calm, emotionless look he excelled at. Then it relaxed into a smile.

"Of course," he told his mother. "I look forward to it."

Olena returned his smile with a relieved one and then bid us good night. Once she was gone, Dimitri sat down on the edge of the bed and rested his elbows on his knees. He set his head in his hands and muttered something in Russian. I didn't know exactly what he said, but I was guessing it was along the lines of "What have I gotten myself into?"

I walked over to him and sat on his lap, wrapping my arms around his neck so that I could face him. "Why so blue, comrade?"

"You know why," he said, playing with a lock of my hair. "I'm going to have to keep talking about ... that time."

Sympathy burned in me. I knew he felt guilty for what he'd done as a Strigoi and had only recently accepted that it wasn't his fault. He'd been turned against his will by another Strigoi and hadn't been fully in control of himself. Still, it was a hard thing to come to terms with.

"It's true," I said. "But they're only going to talk about that in order to find out the rest of the story. No one's going to focus on what you did as Strigoi. They're going to want to know about how you came back. The miracle. I saw these people earlier this year. They mourned you as dead. Now they're going to want to celebrate you being alive. That's what the focus will be." I brushed my lips against his. "That's certainly my favorite part of the story."

He pulled me closer. "My favorite part was when you slapped some sense into me and got me to stop feeling sorry for myself."

"Slapped? That's not exactly how I remember it." To be fair, Dimitri and I had hit and kicked each other plenty of times in the past. It was inevitable with the kind of strict training regimen guardians had. But getting him to overcome his Strigoi days ... well, that had required less in the way of hitting and more of me trying not to be too argumentative while he healed on his own. And yeah, there'd also been one incident involving a hotel room and clothing removal, but I don't really think it had been all that essential in the healing process.

Still, when Dimitri fell backward and took me down on the bed with him, I had a feeling it was that particular memory that was fresh in his mind too. "Maybe you just need to help remind me," he said diplomatically.

" 'Remind,' huh?" Wrapped in his arms, I cast an anxious glance at the door. "I feel bad enough having our own room in your mom's house! It's like we're getting away with something."

He cupped my face between his hands. "They're very open-minded," he said. "Besides, after everything we've been through? I think we might as well be married, as far as most of them are concerned."

"I got that impression too," I admitted. When I'd been here for his memorial service, a lot of the other dhampirs had practically treated me like his widow. Dhampir relationships didn't stand much on ceremony.

"Not a bad idea," he teased.

I tried to elbow him, which was kind of difficult, considering how entwined we were. "Nope. Don't go there, comrade." I loved Dimitri more than anything, but despite his occasional suggestions, I'd made it clear I had no intention of getting married until there was a "2" at the beginning of my age. He was seven years older than me, so marriage was more of a reasonable idea for him. For me, even though there was no one else I wanted, eighteen was too young to be a wife just yet.

"You say that now," he said, trying to keep from laughing, "but one of these days you'll crack."

"No way," I said. His fingertips traced patterns against my neck, filling my skin with heat. "You've given some pretty convincing arguments, but you're still a long way from winning me over."

"I haven't even really tried," he said, in a rare moment of arrogance. "When I want to, I can be very persuasive."

"Yeah? Prove it."

His lips moved toward mine. "I was hoping you'd say that."

The guests began arriving early. Of course, the Belikov women had been up and awake even earlier-far earlier than Dimitri and me, who were still coping with the time change. The kitchen was a flurry of activity, filling the house with all sorts of mouth-watering scents. Admittedly, Russian food wasn't my favorite cuisine, but there were a few dishes-especially ones Olena made-that I'd grown attached to. She and her daughters baked and cooked enormous quantities of everything, which seemed excessive since almost every person who stopped by also brought a dish to share. The experience was a mirror of Dimitri's memorial service, save that the mood was understandably more upbeat.

At first, there was a little awkwardness on everyone's part. Despite his resolve to focus on the positive, Dimitri still had a little trouble getting over the fact that his Strigoi time was the central focus. Some of the guests were equally nervous, as though maybe the rest of us had made a terrible mistake and he really was still a bloodthirsty undead creature. Of course, you only had to spend about five minutes with him to know that wasn't true, and soon the tension melted away. Dimitri knew almost everyone from his childhood and grew more and more delighted to see familiar faces. They in turn were more than happy to rejoice in his being saved.

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